The Slovenia Times

'16+1' is becoming a beneficial cross-regional cooperation platform


Participants in the summit issued the Sofia Guidelines for Cooperation between China and CEE with "Deepening open and pragmatic cooperation for inclusive prosperity" as its theme. They stressed that the 16+1 Cooperation constitutes an important part of and a positive complementary to the relationship between China and the EU:

The Participants ... are ready to work together ... to ensure that China-EU relations continue to develop in a balanced way. ...are ready to actively implement the Belt and Road cooperation MOUs... to bring more results to this cooperation while maintaining its openness, based on market rules and international norms which, on the part of EU Member States would also complement relevant EU policies and projects.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reassured that China will stay on the path to deepen economic reforms and adhere to international free trade rules and regulations: "We will lower overall import tariffs to the Chinese market ... for foreign products which meet Chinese consumer needs, we will open the door wider to them to come into the Chinese market."

In line with the stated aim of advancing practical cooperation in trade, investment and connectivity, a proposal for a possible extension of the connection between the Belgrade-Budapest railway and the Albanian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Slovenian ports was accepted. Hungary finalised the construction timetable with Beijing for the rail link in June.

The proposal is part of the overall strategy to build infrastructure in the region to develop routes for a China-Europe land sea express line and container block trains services. Road and rail projects funded by China were high on the agenda at the summit, as well as talks on joint ventures in industry, the hi-tech sector, agriculture and tourism. A need to foster synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Trans-European Transport Network as well as coordination on economic cooperation and connectivity between initiatives, including 16+1 Cooperation, the EU-China Connectivity Platform and EU Eastern Partnership, was acknowledged.

Slovenia's Miro Cerar stated that the Slovenian port, Luka Koper, is determined to play a considerable part in the Belt Road Initiative of which the main ambition is building connectivity and cooperation across Asia, Africa and Europe for mutual economic benefits. Cerar is convinced that the initiative is in line with the common interests of all participants. He also expressed satisfaction with the signing of an agreement on scientific and academic cooperation between the Capital University of Physical Education and Sports from Beijing and the Faculty of Sport from Ljubljana. The cooperation is part of Beijing's preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The next annual 16+1 summit will be held in Croatia. The country has recently started the construction of the PeljeĊĦac bridge, a deal which combines Croatian, EU and Chinese efforts. The deal was signed in Dubrovnik this spring between the Croatian Roads Public Company and the China Road and Bridge Corporation. The EU co-finances the project providing about 85 percent of the estimated cost.


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